In our corner of the world, we are very fortunate to live in a place where we haven't had to worry too much about natural disasters, but this is not true for many of our sisters and brothers around the globe. Within the last month alone, we have seen devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Katia, as well as earthquakes. These things are alarming to adults, so imagine how terrifying they are to our children who may not grasp what is happening.
How can we help ease our children’s minds during these times of fear and suffering? As active members of the Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Hartford, there are some things we can do:
- Encourage open discussion. Having an open dialogue with your child is extremely important no matter what you are talking about, but especially when discussing today’s news, peer pressure, and their fears. By taking their comments seriously, you not only validate their feelings, but you allow them to articulate their concerns so that you can face them head on. Consequently, when you say, “I know that you’re feeling sad and scared, and I promise you that we are doing everything we can to make sure you’re safe,” they will know that you’ve heard their concerns and have taken them seriously.
- Avoid placing blame. People give all sorts of explanations as to why natural disasters happen. Some of these explanations border on superstition and may go against your family’s values and/or make your child afraid that if he or she does something wrong, you could all be punished by “an act of God.” Unfortunately, with today’s media, it’s very possible that your child will hear these things, so if it comes up, address it directly. Help your child understand that natural disasters are not punishment, but rather natural occurrences. Remind them that it’s most important to focus on how we can help others when these disasters occur and that we must also help our planet stay healthy. For additional help with this complicated discussion, reach out to your child’s school and/or your parish.
- Have a plan. We should all have a plan in case a disaster strikes. For example, you probably have smoke detectors in your home and an escape route in case of emergency. Perhaps during Hurricane Sandy you left your home and/or boarded up the windows to protect yourself and your loved ones. It’s good to talk about an emergency plan and even have your child help you set one up. As a family, practice your emergency procedures so that everyone knows what to do in case of a disaster. Just knowing that there is something in place can go a long way in helping your child feel more secure.
- Put faith into action. The Catholic Church and its members are all about action, not only with prayer, but also with relief services. In fact, community service is one of the pillars of our identity. Faith-based organizations such as the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Knights of Columbus work year-round, and when a natural disaster hits, they step up to the plate, providing water, shelter, and supplies to people in need. There are numerous opportunities for your child to volunteer with these organizations and others like them. Helping in this way can make your child feel much less helpless when it comes to the threat of natural disasters. Contact the Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM) for more information on the programs offered in the Archdiocese of Hartford.
How do you help your child cope with the fear of natural disasters? Let us know on our social media page.